Dans la nuit froide de l'oubli

This late-autumn tanka was penned by by SONE no Yoshitada (曽根好忠) and can be found in the Shin Kokinshū:


Hito wa kozu/ Kaze ni konoha wa/ chirihatete/ yonayona mushi no/ koe yowaru nari

People do not call/ The leaves have blown away in the wind/ And every night the cries of the insects seem weaker

This poem is an excellent example of Shin-kokin-chō (新古今調, "Shin Kokinshū tone") in many ways: its twilight-of-the-nobles feel, its phantasmagoric rather than direct emotional use of the natural world, even its 1-4 structure (breaks after the first five-syllable ku).

Mind you, Yoshitada wrote it more than a century before the SK editors were even born. He was ahead of his time. Pessimists often are.

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Aurelio Asiain:

Beautiful poem. Almost two centuries after Yoshitada, Minamoto no Sanetomo wrote an allusive variation:


Do you have any particular reason to translate "人は来ず" as "people do not call" and not "people do not come"?


Basically I just didn't like "People do not come" as a line; I felt like it needed some indication of _where_ to work in English, as it stands. "People do not call" isn't a great translation either, though, but I was trying to stick to the original shape.. perhaps "No one comes"?

Aurelio Asiain:

Well, the problem with "call" is one immediately thinks in a telephone call.... And "no one comes" is too short. How about "no one visits me"?


That works in isolation, but then you have the problem of what to say when the source is 訪はむ... ;)

I see your problem with "call" -- it is an interesting one. It didn't have that association for me because I was so deeply involved in the context, I suppose -- I was reading 1000-year-old poems during most of my free time that day.

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